May 9, 2011
The promo guy took a knee on the pavement and ripped into a cardboard box, pulling out a handful of lanyards that dangled from his fingers like entrails. His freckled, sunburned neck stood in stark juxtaposition to the clouds spitting down on Lansdowne Street, threatening to open their mouths even wider.
“Ok, if you purchased a VIP Diamond package, form a line to the right.”
Standing in the shadow of Fenway Park, I stepped to the right with about thirty fellow Deftones die-hards. Each of us had forked over $150 to watch soundcheck and participate in a meet and greet with our rock heroes before taking in the evening’s show. Under normal circumstances, I would have parked myself on the curb outside the House of Blues and tried to graph them for free. But given how influential the Deftones (and particularly, frontman Chino Moreno) had been on my own musical pursuits a decade ago, I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I wanted the full experience.
VIP passes dangled from our necks as we marched into the venue and made our way toward the stage. I made a beeline to the barricade, positioning myself in front of guitarist Stef Carpenter who fiddled with his pedals while watching the small group claim spots on the floor. We stared up at them and they stared down at us. No one said a word.
Chino finally broke the ice. “Hey guys, what’s up?”
“Hey,” a few of us responded.
With the house lights on and nothing blasting through the speakers, the atmosphere (or lack thereof) underscored the awkwardness of the moment. These were the guys who made the music that most of us listened to every day during some important period in our lives. These were the guys we traveled to see perform many times over. The guys we screamed for and wanted to be. And nobody knew what the hell to say.
An ear-ringing snare hit broke the silence and the Deftones launched into the first of three head-banging tracks. In less than ten minutes it was over. We walked quietly back into the lobby and formed another line, waiting for the meet and greet. The promo guy set up a softbox light and stated that he would take two pictures and post the best take on the band’s website for download.
“Have some fun with it,” he suggested. “The guys are cool. The worst photo is the one where you are standing like a statue.”
The band emerged about twenty minutes later and leaned against a wall across from us. Fifth in line, I tested my Prismacolor paint pen and it was flowing nicely. A few moments later I was walking toward them.
For days I had reworked and rehearsed what to say in that brief moment our lives would intersect. Something concise but personal.
“I’ve been a fan for thirteen years and your music has inspired me along the way. It’s a real pleasure to meet you guys. Thanks for coming out today.”
It was meant for them all but I said it to Chino, intending to burn his response within the folds of my brain for later recall.
“Thanks, that means a lot,” he said, shaking my hand.
I wedged in next to him and shot a glance down the line at the others. “Ok guys, b-boy stances!”
Two flashes later I asked them each sign an 8×10 group shot using my paint pen rather than the silver Sharpies they were holding. Stef insisted on using his pen, however (“How about I use something that isn’t going to smudge all over the place.”), and I let it pass without informing him that I knew a little bit about what I was doing. Though I felt a bit self-conscious about holding up the line I pulled out a second 8×10 which I had signed many years ago at the Worcester Palladium by nearly everyone in the band.
“Let me guess,” Stef said. “All you need is me.”
I nodded and he signed it in silver, ignoring the black Sharpie I had revealed that would have matched the original signatures. But you know what? It’s all good.
A House of Blues security guard who was helping out with the event handed me a pre-signed poster on my way out. The final piece of memorabilia included in the VIP deal would be handed out after the show—a pre-signed setlist—which was a chore to keep dry after enjoying a blistering 23-song set.
It was all well worth the price of admission.